Art

Queen Elizabeth’s Life in Photos

When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in London, in 1926, movies were silent, the widespread adoption of television (purveyor of such multiseason, historical dramas as The Crown) was still decades off, and social media, with its instant proliferation of images and information, was a phenomenon of a faraway future century.

Painted portraits aside, the camera was the preeminent recorder of young Elizabeth’s life, and it is photographs that, even in this multimedia era, seem to have most clearly captured the much-remarked-upon dignity, abiding sense of duty and quiet playfulness of Queen Elizabeth II — as she was known upon her accession to the crown, in 1952 — throughout her seven decades on the British throne.

Posed or candid, in vivid color or black and white, formally set in sumptuous palaces or with the Queen casually framed amid her dogs or horses or children or courtiers, these photos have the power to make us think we almost know ​​the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning sovereign.

Almost, of course, is the operative word, because QEII would remain an enigma throughout her decades in the spotlight, as her royal training and innate sense of modesty and reserve ensured she would be.

When she died, on September 8 at age 96, she was the most famous woman on the planet. And yet, Elizabeth the Queen (like so many icons whose photographic images we treasure and study long after they themselves are gone, searching for clues) was someone we really didn’t know at all. Still, the selection of photos below sheds some warm light on their royal subject.


Baby Queen Elizabeth II )Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor), 1926, by an unknown photographer
Above: Baby Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, 1926, by an unknown photographer. Top: Princess Elizabeth with Prince Charles, 1950, by Cecil Beaton
HRH Princess Elizabeth, 1945 (printed 2022), by Cecil Beaton
HRH Princess Elizabeth, 1945, by Cecil Beaton
HRH Princess Elizabeth, 1945 (printed 2022), by Cecil Beaton
HRH Princess Elizabeth, 1945, by Cecil Beaton
Queen Elizabeth II, 1955, by Cecil Beaton
Queen Elizabeth II, 1955, by Cecil Beaton
Queen Elizabeth Wears Mineral's Helmet, 1950s, by the Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth Wears a Miner’s Helmet, 1950s, by the Associated Press
Royal Winner, HM Queen Elizabeth II, 1955, by Slim Aarons
Royal Winner, HM Queen Elizabeth II, 1955, by Slim Aarons
Queen Elizabeth II, 1968, by Cecil Beaton
Queen Elizabeth II, 1968, by Cecil Beaton
Queen Elizabeth with Princess Anne and Prince Charles, 1960s, by the Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth with Princess Anne and Prince Charles, 1960s, by the Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth Running Upstairs, 1967, by David Montgomery
Queen Elizabeth Running Upstairs, 1967, by David Montgomery
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, 1960s,, in an Associated Press photo
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, 1960s,, by the Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth with Horses, 1967, by David Montgomery
Queen Elizabeth II Inaugurates Victoria Line, 1969, by an unknown photographer
Queen Elizabeth II Inaugurates Victoria Line, 1969, by an unknown photographer
British Royal Family (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret), 1980, by Norman Parkinson
British Royal Family (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret), 1980, by Norman Parkinson
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1990, by Terry O'Neill
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1990, by Terry O’Neill
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, 1990, by Terry O'Neill
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, 1990, by Terry O’Neill
Queen Elizabeth, Buckingham Palace, London, 2014, by Harry Benson
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2015, by Greg Brennan
Lightness of Being (Freedom Edition), 2021, by Chris Levine
Lightness of Being (Freedom Edition), 2021, by Chris Levine

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